Perry Tasting Notes

There was recently a perry tasting at my house (thanks Sarah, Merce, and Kevin from Cider Log for sharing!).  I took a few tasting notes.  Note that perry is similar to cider, but made from pears, no apples.  [In contrast to pear cider, which in the U.S. is often an apple cider with some pear juice/flavor added.]

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We didn’t end up opening every bottle, so we’ll need to have a perry tasting part 2!  Our dinner pairing was pizza, which worked surprisingly well.

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Dragon’s Head (Vashon Island WA) Methode Champenoise Perry (6.3% ABV), $29 / 750ml:  This is a special release of Dragon’s Head’s Perry, which was made in Methode Champenoise, a labor-intensive traditional way of making a naturally sparkling cider.  It was made from Taylor’s Gold and heirloom seedling Vashon Island pears .  High carbonation.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of pear juice & skin, floral, and honey.  I enjoyed it, although it was very mildly flavored.  It would be a nice champagne alternative, albeit pricey (this was by far the most expensive bottle we opened).

Oliver’s (Herefordshire England) Herefordshire Perry (6.9% ABV), price unknown:  This is an English bottle-conditioned perry made from perry pears.  Smells very funky.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low sourness.  Moderate funk.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Pear-forward and floral.  I enjoyed it.

Hogan’s (Alcester, England) Vintage Perry 2010 (5.4% ABV), ~$10 / 500ml:  This is another English perry made from perry pears.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Hints of sourness, funk, tannins & bitterness.  Low tartness & acidity.  Pear-forward, rich, and nutty.  I really enjoyed it.

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Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Perry (6.0% ABV), price unknown:  This perry was made from Bartlett pears, and claims to be the only true perry (not pear cider) made in California.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness & acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pear, stone fruit, and honey.  I liked it, but this was the most “commercial” / pear cider type tasting of the group.

Viuda de Angelon (Asturias Spain) Sidra de Pera (5.2% ABV), $4 / 11.2oz:  This is a Spanish perry.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied, frothy.  Hints of sourness & funk (less so than most Spanish ciders).  Low to moderate tartness & acidity.  Pear-forward with notes of apricot.  I liked it.

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Sea Cider (Saanichton B.C. Canada) Perry (6.5% ABV), $18 / 750ml:  This is a Canadian perry made from perry pears.  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Very light kinda weird flavor, more floral & herbal than pear.  I think this was a bit of an off bottle though, as it was infected with scobies.  I’ll have to give it another try sometime.

AEppelTreow (Burlington WI) Perry (7.5% ABV), $12 / 750ml:  This is a Methode Champenoise perry made from Comice, Bosc, and Bartlett pears.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness & tannins.  Tastes exactly like champagne, no pear, but juicy, plus notes of stone fruit and honey.  I enjoyed it, although it was not what we were expecting.  Also a nice champagne alternative, and an excellent value for Methode Champenoise.

The day after the group tasting I opened up my bottle of Samuel Smith’s perry, as it was already in the fridge.

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Samuel Smith’s (Tadcaster, England) Organic Perry (5.0 ABV), $3 / 12oz:  This is another English perry, and Organic, but the most commercial (ingredient list included water, pear extract, malic acid, etc).  Semi-sweet.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  No pear flavor, but notes of apple, apricot & other stone fruit, and honey (if I tasted it blind I’d call it cider, not perry).  I liked this, although it was definitely commercial tasting, and the sweetest option.

Our favorite was the Hogan’s (also an excellent value, under $10 I believe).  Our least favorite was the Sea Cider.  The most surprising was the AEppeltreow, as it was the least perry-like.

I’ve also previously tried these perries: Dan Armor Poire, Pear UP Half Past Prudent, Pear UP Cherry Perry, Pear UP Watermelon Perry, Pear UP Watermelon Raspberry Perry, Pear UP Raspberry PerryDomaine Pacory Poire Domfront, Dunkertons Organic Perry, Eaglemount Perry, Locust Seckel PerryNashi Orchards Asian Pear Chojuro Blend PerryNashi Orchards Island Harvest Perry, Portland Cider Pearfect Perry, Snowdrift Perry, Snowdrift Seckel Perry, Tieton Sparkling Perry, WildCraft Pioneer Perry, WildCraft Elderberry Perry, and William’s Sir Perry

Dragon’s Head Kingston Black

Review of Dragon’s Head Kingston Black cider, a single varietal from Vashon Island Washington.  I’ve previously tried their Wild Fermented and Traditional ciders.

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Cider:  Kingston Black
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon WA
ABV:  7.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Kingston Black single varietal craft cider

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Availability:  Limited release (I bought this a few months back so I assume they are sold out by now).  Dragons’ Head ciders are only sold in OR and WA.

Cider Description:  Kingston Black apples are known for being the ultimate cider apple, producing a well balanced, full bodied cider with a distinctive rich flavor.  This cider is made from 100% Kingston Black apples.

Cidery Description:  At Dragon’s Head Cider, we believe in producing high quality hard ciders with a traditional approach, which means you will never find us using apple juice concentrate, over sweetening our ciders, or adding other flavors to our ciders. We love the story that apples and pears can tell all by themselves. And so we keep it simple. Press high quality apples and pears, ferment the juice, put it in a bottle.  We believe one of the keys to creating great cider is to have control over the entire process. For this reason, we do the pressing, fermentation, blending and bottling all right here on the farm.

Wes and Laura Cherry moved to Vashon Island in 2010 with the dream of planting an orchard and starting a cidery. Dragon’s Head Farm, named for the dragon who guards the apples of immortality in the Garden of Hesperides, is now home to over 2,200 cider fruit trees as well as our production facility.

They have a tasting room on Vashon Island open Saturdays and Sundays.

Price:  $19.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  The cider house posted about it on Facebook, and I was glad it was still in stock when I made it there.  Didn’t see any more next time I was there.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Very low carbonation, a mix of tiny and large bubbles.  Some small bits of sediment.  Smells rich, slightly sweet, boozy, of caramel, oak, & vanilla, and acidity & tartness.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Moderate tannins, tartness, and acidity.  A hint of bitterness.  No sour or funk.  Medium bodied.  Not as rich as the scent suggested, but had a smooth almost buttery texture with light carbonation.  Notes of oak (although it doesn’t appear to be barrel aged), vanilla, and caramel.  Long warming finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this cider, but I think I had too high of expectations due to it being a Kingston Black single varietal, and was slightly disappointed.  I think with less tartness the other flavors could have better shined through and made it more to my liking.  Barrel aging this cider would also have been amazing.

Most Similar to:  Other dry and tart ciders with slightly rich flavors, although I can’t think of any in particular that are similar to this one.

Closing Notes:   Kingston Black ciders don’t disappoint, but I enjoyed Whitewood’s Whisky Barrel Aged Kingston Black cider more than this one.  Too bad in the U.S. they are all really limited release (due to the lack of cider apples), as I couldn’t buy a bottle of either of them if I tried.  Farnum Hill also just released a Kingston Black cider, although it won’t make it out here to Seattle.

Have you tried any Kingston Black single varietal ciders?  What did you think?

Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented

Review of Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented cider.  A wild fermented (wild yeast) cider uses the yeast naturally present on the apples and in the environment, in contrast to most ciders which destroy any natural yeast and add their own known strain.  A wild fermented cider is typically more unpredictable and difficult to make than typical ciders.  I’ve also tried Dragon’s Head Traditional cider, and also have a bottle of their Kingston Black cider in my collection.

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Cider:  Wild Fermented
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon Island WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottle

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Availability:  Year round in WA and OR.  See their list of locations.

Cider Description:  This is the Dragon’s Head Cider version of a farmhouse cider. Rather than carefully selecting a yeast strain for the fermentation, we allowed the wild yeast present on the skin of the apples to ferment the cider. It’s a bit of a fun gamble, but one we believe is worth taking.

Cidery Description:  From apple to bottle, all right here on our farm.  At Dragon’s Head Cider, we take a traditional approach to cider making. Our focus is on the apple varieties that we use and the quality of the fruit. We love the story that apples alone can tell through cider, altering the flavor by changing the blend of apple varieties that we carefully select. The process is simple and the ingredients list is short. Perhaps we’re a little old fashioned.

Dragon’s Head has a tasting room.

Price:  ~$15
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Slightly hazy pale straw yellow.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of sour citrus, acidity, funk, yeast, and honey.

Opinion:  I perceived it as completely dry, but it has 7 grams  of sugar per liter. Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild sourness and funk.  No bitterness.  Moderate length finish.  Light bodied and crisp.  Honey, citrus, pear, oak, yeast, earthy, and slightly herbal & floral notes.  The flavors remain rather mild yet complex.  Best enjoyed chilled.

Most Similar to:  Wild fermented ciders, Sidra, sour ciders, Farmhouse-style ciders, etc.  This very much reminded me of WildCraft ciders, especially the Pioneer Perry for some reason, probably as I had this the day after trying the Pioneer Perry.

Closing Notes:   I wasn’t really a fan.  Since buying this I’ve found that I’m not a fan of ciders of this style, so knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t have bought it.  Its still always nice to try new ciders though, and I was able to share it with a friend who liked it a bit more than I did.  I’d suggest this for folks who don’t mind this style of cider–dry, sour, and funky.  Its definitely unique and well-crafted.

Have you tried any ciders from Dragon’s Head?  What did you think?